On Wednesday night, Samba da Vela came to play. Literally meaning Samba of the Candle, the concept is simple: a candle is lit in the center of the space and the band plays until the candle burns out. The band is in the center of the room and plays with the audience, who is sitting all around them. Musicians bring people up to dance, have the audience call and respond, and they share stories about their music.
I was immediately struck by how comforting and warm it was. Even though my experience was probably much different than that of most of the audience — I didn’t grow up with this music — I still felt at home. There were people of all ages there, from children to college kids to older people. And even the space it was held in, a subterranean hole, made it feel even more intimate.
While Samba da Vela usually plays in the southern neighborhood of Santo Amaro on Monday nights, they came to Centro Cultural São Paulo (CCSP) as part of Estéticas das Periferias, a six day festival that celebrates the art and culture of the periphery in the literal and metaphorical sense — those who live on the outskirts of the city tend to be the poor, marginalized classes. This Sunday, Estéticas closes in Vila Nova Cachoeirinha in Zona Norte with DJs, poets, samba and a performance by rapper Emicida.
Inviting the audience to stand and get in closer, Samba da Vela closed with their song “A Comunidade Chora,” or The Community Weeps. The community weeps because the candle has burned out, ending the samba. Until Monday, where they’ll light another candle in Santo Amaro.